“’Til death do we part”, and then we did. Our fairy tale beginning of marriage turned into an unhappily-ever-after when the prince in our story died. You never expect the vows to break nor imagine that the “for worse” would ever be that bad.
You say your vows and especially embrace the love-filled promises to have and to hold, for better, for richer, in health, for your whole life. You cringed, yet recited the life-filled vows promising to love one another for worse, for poorer, in sickness, ‘til death do you part. You have read “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”, “The Five Love Languages”, and “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”. You have sworn to forsake all others. You are excited about your future together, but nothing could have prepared you for a third being to join your union of holy matrimony. Enter grief. You said, “’Til death do we part,” not expecting your marriage to be a casualty of your child’s death. That is so grief, unpredictable, cruel, heartless.
Those fairytale beginnings feel like a distant memory, a time when you were optimistic and ready for your dream-to-come-true, beautifully unaware of the looming nightmare that would wreck many of your relationships, including your marriage. You desperately search for resources, a “What to Expect When Your Child Dies and Your Marriage is Next” type book or A Bereaved Besties Guide to Grief and Marriage. You cannot find one, so you keep notes in hopes that one day it will help another.
Marriage becomes a before and after. You remember what you did your first date, and even save the ticket stub from your first movie. You remember how close you were, how wonderful the love felt. You will also remember what you did those first days without your child. Be prepared for your marriage to feel different than before. Plan for it, rather than be caught off guard. Plan for the silence and distance. Plan for the effects of grief on your relationship. What will you do when you sit beside one another yet feel miles apart, lost in the aftermath of grief?
Realize that each of you will have a separate relationship with grief. The terrain of pain changes from day to day, sometimes triggering emotions by the minute. Marriage can be tough when your grief patterns are out of synch. How can you help one another combat the spontaneous effects of grief when one or both of you are in need?
Each of you will cope and express your grief uniquely. You will each find ways to live after loss. Remember to find ways that work for both of you. Brainstorm together. Communicate with one another and get creative. Will you cope together or choose to express your unique grief alone?
You will experience varying degrees of support from others, and from one another. When they don’t have words, they lend hands and wrap their arms around you. They ask about you every day, bring food by the house, send encouraging texts, but will they ask about him? Have they sent him a text or made him open-up about his despair over the death of his child? Men grieve too. What can you do to help him receive the support that he needs? Does he know what you need? Do you know what he needs?
Regardless of the marital status or outcome, you will remain linked by the love for your child.
Once upon a time, there was grief and the main character who refused to give up, even after the end.
Photo Credit- Ginny Limer